Thursday, September 10, 2015

making it so every day is like Sunday

No not silent and grey, although that would be appropriate enough I suppose for a Quaker, especially one with a collection of Morrissey albums! It would also match todays weather, but that's by the by.

Recently a friend was visiting and as is fairly common here she took her shoes off when she came in, and she was apologizing for the holes in her sock. Trying to reassure her that it really didn't matter I came out with an old family quip about her wearing her Sunday socks. I got a completely blank look. 'Your holy ones!' I added. More blank looks. Never mind, I assured her, a family joke, it obviously doesn't travel well!

It dawned on me later that she was of the generation where your Sunday clothes were your best ones, plus English had not been her parents' or her late husband's first language, so puns and plays on English words simply had not been a part of her everyday life in the way they have been in mine.

'Sunday best' or 'keeping it for best' was the theme of a series of adverts on tv a few months back, I think they were for Twinings Tea. They were making the point that it is silly to keep things in a cupboard for best, go ahead and wear/use/drink them and get enjoyment out of them. It's a mantra that I'd gradually been coming round to myself as I decluttered my life, or more specifically my wardrobe. After all there aren't that many 'Sunday best' occasions in my life as generally Quakers don't dress up to go to church, the idea is that all days are equal and sacred. This meant we looked like a right bunch of scruffs in Edinburgh turning up in our everyday clothes next door to the well scrubbed and polished 'Wee Frees' in all their finery!

I had a pair of smart boots that I used to keep 'for best' but my orthotic insoles didn't fit in them so I was wearing them less and less. Fortunately they fit a friend of mine perfectly who was looking for boots and she now wears them for work. When I replaced those boots last year with a pair that I could wear my insoles with I decided that whilst yes, they are expensive boots and smarter than my usual footwear choices I wasn't going to let them gather dust in the bottom of the wardrobe waiting for some special occasion to arise like the old ones. Also I'd noticed my walking shoes/trainers that had been my winter shoes for the last couple of years or so weren't quite as comfortable any more, and replacing them as well just wasn't within my budget, so my smart new boots became my winter shoes. Two winters later they are still looking smart and as they fit my orthotics I haven't worn down the heels at a ridiculous angle either! I'd been careful to buy some that could be re-heeled when necessary so I should get a few more years out of them yet. Well worth the investment in a decent pair, especially as I've still managed to postpone replacing my trainers!

When paring down the contents of my wardrobe I also made a decision to 'reclassify' a knitted top that I'd bought with birthday money from a fantastic boutique shop on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh many years ago. There aren't many advantages to an early January birthday in the UK, but the sales are one of the few! I have two items from there, both much loved but rarely worn. One I had worn regularly in Scotland, but the other was definitely kept 'for best'. The regularly worn one is a bit too thick usually for a Far North winter, but the other is fine, I just needed to get my head around wearing it as an everyday item. I still hesitate a little when getting it out, but I've worn it quite a bit this winter and I've got to enjoy the lovely softness of the merino/cashmere mix and appreciate its warm red colour properly rather than just when looking in my wardrobe for something more ordinary to wear instead! There are a couple of other tops that I love but had thought of as 'too smart' for everyday use, but they too have been integrated into use as I told myself that if they didn't get worn they'd have to go and I wasn't quite prepared to part with them yet! After all it isn't like my days are spent in the sandpit or getting clarted in glue, paint and various child produced bodily fluids any more.

When I first started clutter clearing about 15yrs or so ago (yeah yeah, you can't do it all in one go okay!) the William Morris quote  Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful struck a chord with me. However I have struggled with the concept of whittling down the 'useful' pile as I inherited a hefty streak of my father's 'it might come in useful one day, and when it does I'll have it' attitude. Unfortunately I didn't quite get the required bit to go with it that means that when that day comes around I'll know exactly where it is... so whilst yes technically it might well be useful one day, it doesn't figure that it will get used. And you know what? If you have less stuff it is much quicker to look in all the places it isn't before you find the one where it is! Beautiful on the other hand has generally been a bit easier. One clutter clearing book asked 'does it make your heart sing, or sink, when you come across it?' The idea being ditch the 'sink' stuff. And I'd got quite good at that bit. But what I hadn't got so good at was making the most of the stuff that makes my heart sing. A lot of it is still tucked away, in boxes, in cupboards etc.

I've kept telling myself over the years that I haven't had enough room to have x,y,z out and in use. If I had more space, or a whole flat to fill again then sure I'd use it. But if I'm thinking of continuing to live out of a small space then something needs to change. I need to wear those 'best clothes' more often if I'm to justify them having wardrobe room, I need to find a way to make a whole pile of stuff more useful in my life as life is now, not as it was a decade or more ago. And if it isn't currently useful then maybe it is time to let it go so it can be useful somewhere else. When the time comes that I do need a whatever again then I can take pleasure in choosing something both beautiful and useful that meets my new set of circumstances. Meanwhile I have a lovely cut crystal glass tumbler by my bed for when I take my tablets every night, not quite the expected nightcap it was intended for but it is getting used far more often this way.

I'm itching to get my hands on the last box (my blanket box) of stuff in storage and find out what else is in there that I could be using and appreciating now rather than 'saving for later'. Another way of looking at this whole thing is as a former colleague of mine said, 'I always burn those fancy candles and use the fancy soaps you get given, otherwise they just gather dust, and I hate dusting!' Indeed. Get the pleasure out of things now, don't make them a chore to deal with later.

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